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Published: Tuesday, 10/28/2008

Buckeye Nation love affair: books capitalize on rabid fan base

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Toledo native John Porentas
authored,  Glory Years,  one of
many new books about OSU. Toledo native John Porentas authored, Glory Years, one of many new books about OSU.
JIM DAVIDSON O-ZONE COMMUNICATIO / O-ZONE COMMUNICATIONS, INC. HAN Enlarge

COLUMBUS - An interesting phenomenon was exposed when John Porentas decided a dozen years ago to start dabbling in sharing information about Ohio State football with fans outside the capital city, with the internet as his conduit.

The native Toledoan learned Buckeye enthusiasts make up a massive, sprawling network, and this is a collective beast with an appetite you cannot satisfy. No matter how much you shower them with data or facts or minutia wrapped in scarlet and gray - they want more.

"It does amaze me, just how devoted and invested the fans are," said Porentas, who grew up in East Toledo and attended St. Thomas Aquinas for grade school and St. Francis de Sales High School.

"You can give them loads of detail and background on the receivers or the special teams or the play-calling, but if it has to do with Ohio State football, they always want more. There is probably some breaking point, but we're not there yet."

That insatiable thirst for a look behind the curtain at one of the nation's most tradition-rich football factories led Porentas to start O-Zone Communications and create a Web site targeting fans outside the shadow of The Horseshoe. His feeding the Ohio State mania continues with the recently released book Glory Years: A Photo History of the New Era in Ohio State Football. Porentas supplied the text, and photographer Jim Davidson the artwork.

"We didn't set out to do a book - the book came to us," said Porentas, who attended Ohio State from 1965-70 and then moved back to Columbus in 1982 after working in light manufacturing in Bowling Green.

"The phone rang, and it was the number one sports publisher in the U.S. They told us that every year, some of their best-selling books are those on Ohio State. That didn't surprise us, because our core business is an example of how big Ohio State sports are, and football certainly drives that."

The book covers the Jim Tressel era at Ohio State and devotes a third of its space to the 2002 national championship, which the Buckeyes won in his second season as head coach.

"Our photo database for the Tressel period at Ohio State had 120,000 images to sort through, just to find the 100 pictures they wanted for the book," Porentas said.

In the text of the book, Porentas decided to use anecdotes and snippets from inside the historic program, instead of simply describing the photos for OSU fans who likely had already watched those games and knew the scores.

"We gave them a lot of personal experiences and stories from places like the practice field and from inside the Woody Hayes Center, but not from a rah-rah point of view," Porentas said. "We felt like those realistic bits and pieces on the Buckeyes, plus the strength of the photography, would make a pretty decent book."

The Porentas book is one of several recent releases that focus exclusively on OSU football.

Bob Hunter's Chic: The Extraordinary Rise of Ohio State Football and the Tragic Schoolboy Athlete Who Made It Happen is a look at the legend and the little known aspects of the life of Chic Harley, Ohio State's first football hero. Buckeye Dreams: The Tyler 'Tank' Whaley Story by Ken Gordon documents the personal journey of a walk-on player who made his small hometown proud. OSU football historian Jack Park filled The Ohio State University Football Vault with Buckeyes treasures, as the name implies.

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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